“My story is a freedom song of struggle. It is about finding one’s purpose, how to overcome fear and to stand up for causes bigger than one’s self.” Coretta Scott King
Do you find it difficult standing up for what you truly value?
Martin Luther King Jr. is not a stranger to you. History is full of his brave actions and the result of his courage is evident.
But what if he was too afraid to speak against the unfair treatment of the African Americans?
He was a minority in the sense that not many African Americans publicly spoke out.
But for his wife Coretta Scott King to become a leader of the civil rights movement, that was something else.
Coretta Scott King was first of all an African American, meaning a minority. But more than that, she was a woman.
You would expect that she would be quietly keeping herself busy at home while men rallied the masses.
She defied all odds and proved that what you believe is valuable enough to stand up for.
This is regardless of your race, sex or even age.
And if her husband’s stand is anything to go by, then your values are worth even dying for.
“There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Many people get inspired by listening to Martin Luther King Jr. and admire his courage. Yet, they still don’t rise up to speak and act when necessary. They only wish they had the courage he did.
- 1 REASONS TO STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU VALUE
- 2 HOW TO START STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF
- 3 CONCLUSION
A conflict of interest?
Have you considered how many things are going wrong around you?
Maybe your colleague is using his position to award tenders to his own supplies company. Or your friend is lying about the mileage of the car he’s selling to an unsuspecting customer?
These and many other scenarios may cause great discomfort to you. But what do you do about them?
In the first example, the colleague might be the one who suggested that you get promoted. He even helped you work on the project which determined your promotion.
Moreover, he made you a co-director in his supplies company.
In the second example, your friend who sells cars might have supported you financially when you didn’t have a job. He was also present to condole with you during the loss of one of your relatives.
What is the right response in such situations?
If you value integrity, these situations will trouble your conscience. You will be guilty of being an accomplice since you witnessed them. The only way out is to speak against the actions.
But there seems to be so much at stake.
Why you don’t stand up for your values?
Just like your rights, your values can be easily violated. This however only happens when you allow it. Basic rights are enshrined in the law. They therefore get their protection from it.
As for the things you value, the only defense they have is you.
So why don’t you defend them?
Here are four reasons why you prefer going along with what others say or do rather than your values.
1. The fear of being rejected – as a social being, you desire to be part of a community. At the core of this desire, is a natural need for association.
You need to have friends with whom to share your life. Friends who will encourage you when you are in low spirits. The kind who will affirm you and urge you on towards your dreams.
When a situation shows up and you realize there is potential for being rejected, you will likely stay quiet.
With your brain wired to protect you, you will almost naturally want to stay away from trouble.
2. The fear of being (mis)judged – no-one likes being judged, whether rightly or wrongly. And since judging leads to some form of rejection, it’s easy to see why you want to avoid it. Being judged means that you are wrong.
To be seen as wrong can be difficult especially if you are low on self-confidence.
3. Fear of being put down – your words describe your thoughts and open you up to scrutiny. When you say something which others don’t agree with, they may decide to silence you.
You may experience a lot of opposition. This can lead you to conclude that you would have been better off not saying what you said.
If this happens in the midst of abusive people like bullies, you may decide never again to speak your mind.
4. Fear of being the odd one out – you are definitely unique. Your uniqueness is a special gift to the world. This uniqueness needs to be expressed.
If not, there is a risk of it being lost. This uniqueness will manifest through creative ideas, intelligent solutions, unique methods etc.
When everyone seems to be thinking along the same lines, you wonder how come no-one is thinking like you. Instead of seeing the uniqueness of your ideas, you deem them wrong.
Despite any strong convictions of their value, you still decide not to go against the grain.
To someone with high self-confidence, these reasons don’t make sense.
But if you’re low on self-confidence, these are just a small window into your world of worries and emotional instability.
Not to worry though. This article will be of great value to you.
There is someone on the inside of you yearning to break free from the bondage of fear.
Desiring to express himself and utilize the gift he has in him.
As you read this and see the need to be more confident, just step out in faith and do it.
REASONS TO STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU VALUE
In failing to stand up for your values, you lose a lot, whether you are or are not aware of it. When you discover what you are losing, it will help you see the value of speaking up.
You will be encouraged to raise your hand to offer a suggestion. You will look forward to speaking out against wrongdoing.
And as you do that, you will see the benefits manifest in your life and want to do it even more.
Here are some reasons why you should stand up for your values.
Raises Your Self-Confidence
The biggest hindrance to standing up for your values is fear. This is what is behind a low self-esteem and confidence.
The four fears mentioned above are the issues which need to be addressed.
To do so, you need a good evaluation of who you are. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses.
You need to understand how your strengths make you good and how your weaknesses mean you need others.
Whereas you may be well aware of your weaknesses, your focus on them could be dwarfing your strengths. Like everyone else, you have great strengths.
Even the most courageous of people have fears. They just developed ways of overcoming those fears.
The same applies to you. When you overcome the fears holding you back, you will see your courage growing.
Just think of joining the leagues of powerful public speakers. Imagine standing before thousands of people eager to listen to you because you have something worth listening to.
Imagine your contribution to the society being appreciated because you were confident enough to speak.
People aren’t necessarily born confident. Self-confidence is largely a learned trait.
If you were not raised to develop it, you can do so now.
In fact, it’s even better now because you know the benefits of being self-confident. You can therefore go for it with all your strength.
Self-respect is another great trait worth developing. It is also closely related to self-confidence.
When you respect yourself, you know the best thing to do and cannot allow anyone or anything to interfere.
You know what exactly suits you well and what doesn’t. You know what works well for you in certain situations and what doesn’t.
When it comes to making your values known, self-respect goes a long way in aiding the process.
Think of someone promising you something. Would you trust someone who keeps his word or one who doesn’t?
One of the things you will love someone for is his ability to keep his word. When he says something, he does it.
That is integrity. If he tells you that he values honesty, you expect him to be honest. And when he proves honest, you respect him for it.
What happens during difficult moments?
If he maintains his honesty, your respect for him increases.
Now put yourself in his shoes.
You have some values inside you. Somewhere inside you, you expect yourself to keep your word. You have said to yourself that you value honesty. What happens when a tricky situation arises?
If you fail to keep your word, you condemn yourself. If you do, you feel good about yourself. You are proud of yourself and you respect yourself.
You know that no matter what the situation is, you can count on yourself to make the right decision.
That is self-respect.
Few things can make you as confident as when you are independent.
Not independent in the sense that you don’t need anyone since that will never be the case.
But independence in the sense that you don’t need anyone to affirm you.
When you stand for your values and it becomes natural for you, you become independent of others’ opinions. People will always speak, whether for or against you.
But when you are used to doing what is right, you stop being bothered by other people’s opinions about you.
Self-confidence brings about independence. In itself, independence is a sign of confidence. It also points you towards respect.
Confident people are usually highly respected.
They may not be the most intelligent people in the room. But the fact that they put their ideas on the line and contribute to the solution, they are counted as worthy of acknowledgment.
For such people, whether you agree with them or not, it doesn’t bother them. You opinion isn’t what makes them.
This is where you need to get to.
The place where you are free and confident to do what you know is right. Where you can speak what is right.
Support what is right. And in the process, inspire others to do the same.
HOW TO START STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF
Admittedly, the change is not one which will take place in a day. The reality is that the process is gradual.
But there is an assurance that if you diligently do the below things, you will see yourself developing the necessary confidence.
Find Out What You Truly Value
You cannot stand up for what you truly value if you don’t know what you value.
Values are deeply held convictions. They are what define you in many ways. Your character is defined by your values.
For example, if you love peace and unity in friendships, you may be very agreeable. If you love helping those who are in need, one of your character traits may be “caring.”
So the first step is to find out what your values are. These are the things you will stand up for despite what the situation looks like.
If you need help with this, just read how our article on values.
Stop Thinking About What Others Think of You
This might be the biggest hurdle in your quest to gain the confidence you seek. For that reason, you need to put in the work required. Though involving much effort, it will prove worth it.
This is more like training yourself to have a new mindset. You need to gradually remove the old thinking patterns and put in new ones.
It is important that you understand from the onset that this is not a quick process. Anytime you experience some form of failure, just remind yourself that it is a process.
Do not focus on those temporary failures. Just remind yourself that there is a reward beyond the finish line.
The reason this might be a big problem is because it is what has kept you back for a long time.
There are pathways in your mind which you follow before making decisions not to speak.
These pathways have been so established that going through them is automatic. You now have to define new pathways.
The simplest way of doing it is to simply ignore the voice which directs you towards these old thinking patterns.
This voice makes suggestions to you and before you know it, your mind has run with the ideas presented.
Here is a two-step method you can utilize to solve this.
1. Slow down your mental processes – this can sound counter-intuitive in this fast-paced world. It however holds the key to your freedom. Your mind has adapted to a fast-paced life and so it does things quickly so as to get to the next task.
With such settings in your mind, there is little time to reason things clearly.
Your mind overrules the request to verify some long-held beliefs since it doesn’t want to waste time.
So, before you make a rational decision to speak, your mind has already moved on from there and is working on other things.
When you slow your mind down, it realizes that there has to be some discussion before a decision is reached. You therefore welcome logic into the picture to argue against your emotions.
In most cases, emotions trample logic during decision-making processes. But with some training, and in due time, logic can oversee the making of right decisions.
2. Reduce your thoughts about other people – this is meant to shed light into the fact that people actually don’t think much about you as you suppose. The truth is that people are focused on their lives. They are chasing their own dreams. They have their own issues to deal with.
And life is moving far too fast for them to start thinking about others. Sure, there are those who might remind you of what you did last summer. They might even make fun of you. When you see that, just conclude one thing: they have no dreams to pursue.
Anyone who is busy with his life has no time for small insignificant issues. And some may even be willing to help you with your challenges. So choose today to classify those putting you down as having nothing big to work on. Ignore them and focus on pursuing confidence.
Act Even When Afraid
Did you know that even the most courageous people experience fear?
Fear is a big enemy and it can paralyze you. But fear can also be tackled successfully. And one way of doing that is by doing the exact opposite of what it tells you to do.
For example, you may be afraid of sharing a thought during a departmental meeting. Everyone else is giving suggestions and you see the weakness in implementing them.
Despite the fear of speaking lest your idea gets rejected, just stop thinking about it and speak.
“What if we do it this other way?” As everyone turns to look at you, continue with that stream of thoughts and explain your idea then let others digest it.
Remember that you are unique. Take this as an opportunity to give a unique solution.
Explain it as well as possible because you’re the one who understands your perspective. Whether the idea is embraced or not, you will notice something.
You will have dealt fear a blow. It may not be a knockout punch but it will have made its mark.
You will experience an excitement from the victory and this will be your new motivation. Just remember not to think about what others think about you.
Celebrate Small Acts of Courage
That moment of breaking the ice of fear was an act of courage. Celebrate it.
Sing your favorite song. Dance. Buy yourself some chocolate, ice-cream, watch a movie or whatever you prefer. Just celebrate the courage you displayed.
Do not allow your inner critic to steal the show by telling you that it was too small a victory to celebrate.
That small victory is a big one. You need to keep it in mind. Write it in your journal. This is what you will use as evidence that you can actually speak.
You have just proven to yourself and your inner critic that when you have something valuable, you can talk about it. And you will keep doing it.
Think of the Beneficiaries
Have you ever done anything for a good cause?
Anytime you help someone in need, you are acting to make the world a better place. This is not practiced by many people. But you always have the opportunity to do so.
Think of the homeless children in need of shelter. Think of the elderly with no-one to take care of them. If you value dignity and see it as something that every human needs, then you can stand up for it.
Because those who aren’t experiencing it often don’t have the ability to ask for it.
They are the forgotten in the society. They are the voiceless since they have no wealth to influence with. They can’t buy advertising space on TV or the dailies.
These are people who will never enjoy some of the basic things you enjoy. And no-one may ever speak up for them.
If you are afraid of standing up for what you value, just think of the people who stand to benefit most when you speak.
If you don’t speak now and make others see the sense in doing right, who will do it? And how long will it take before someone else comes along and does it?
When you consider the voiceless and most neglected in the society, you will realize that you actually represent many people. You have the ability to influence some people to do better.
Therefore, standing up for your values benefits many others. Just think about them.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Standing up for what you truly believe is a cycle which has to continue.
Remember, especially as you start, that this is a process.
The more you do it, the more natural it becomes. The more natural it is, the more you will do it without worrying about people’s opinions.
And as your confidence is developed, you stand to experience the benefits that come with it.
More than that, you also become an example for others. An inspiration for those who are yet to come out of their struggles.
Who knows, you might even become a public speaker on this subject and help others by just sharing your story.